The Tunnel of (Self) Love

Cobblestones beside one of the old railway buildings

Yesterday we arrived in the town of Béjar, about 200km west of Madrid. We have never been here before and that’s always exciting. We had set off early, too early for breakfast so I cooked my favourite – porridge, while Denis went for a walk. We always use other people’s reviews to choose a park-up and the reviews for Béjar were very good. One of them mentioned the greenway, called the Camino Natural Béjar that runs alongside. It used to be a railway line which makes it flat and great for walking. But like all railways lines running through the mountains it has a tunnel. One reviewer suggested that although it was long it was well worth the effort to go through it to see the old town. Oh, not sure about that.

Can you see the tunnel?

We have been travelling for 13 days now and because we’ve started to slow down it feels like the perfect time to soak up the inspiration that comes from visiting these new, strange, unknown places. A train tunnel could be exactly the strange place I need, if… I wasn’t the most careful, risk-adverse person I know. Hmmm. Or maybe it’s just perfect? Anyways, by the time Denis came back I was actually looking forward to going through the tunnel. And he was able to report that it was grand, it was lighted and he had gone all the way through and back and was happy to go with me if I was concerned about going on my own. But I wasn’t, how hard could it be?

Well at least there are lights…

It was awful! You can’t see the end from the beginning, it’s very long. Oh (expletive, expletive, expletive) it was bad.

No, now that I’m writing about it I realise the tunnel was just a tunnel, it was not awful, it was just a tunnel. The thing that was awful was how I felt. I felt very awful. I am searching for better words to describe the feeling. I have a thesaurus on my computer but its not helping translate a feeling into a word. Very unpleasant isn’t bad enough but disgusting is completely wrong. I went about five steps into the tunnel and could go no further. I had to get out.

Don’t you just love rust?

What’s funny (not funny) is I didn’t understand the problem until I was standing about three feet inside the tunnel. Beforehand, in the van I had thought I would be worried about being attacked by another human. So I had a little talk with myself, “you’d be very, very unlucky to get attacked today, first day in a tunnel, first day in Béjar, you’ll be grand, you can do this.” Of course I know what you’re thinking – this could be untrue, but it was enough to convince me I’d be grand and probably not get attacked. So that when I got to the tunnel I was not afraid of being attacked. The fear of being attacked is my mind-fear, my mind-fear had been reassured, however foolishly. No, the big problem standing inside the tunnel was no longer my mind-fear, the problem was my body-fear, the fear that took over my body. There should be a big word for that. Terror? Yes. Terror is a good word.

Can you see the old town walls?

Generally speaking my mind-fear keeps me very safe. If my mind-fear rises I don’t reassure it enough to go towards the fearful thing… why would I? But here on this journey I make myself go towards the fearful thing because of Reverence on Deck 9. Do you remember? That’s where I made a decision to learn from everything, and that includes this tunnel. I promised to meet every difficult moment with self compassion and silence. So I turned around and left the tunnel. Were you expecting that? Do you think I should have kept going?

There’s the van from up on the town walls across the valley

And then something I had missed rushing towards the difficult thing was a signpost pointing up. And there it was, a steep but gloriously outdoor path to Béjar. I took the path most travelled. Yes, I was not a brave tunnel traveller but I was something else. I was compassionate to myself. This is what self compassion does – it accepts what is true for you now and it doesn’t attack your truth no matter how stupid or childish it seems. I’m going to the mouth of the tunnel again today (even writing that makes my stomach clench) but what’s different is Denis is coming too and I’ll take his help and maybe today is the day. And maybe it’s not…

Collage of building materials and a smiling statue

The town was scrumptious, by the way. Ok again, not the right word but I need a word that invokes consuming… but with the eyes. What is that word?